Name of business: Coyotes Cup of Kindness
Type of business: Coffee cart/Special education work experience
Location : 3460 Lester Rd, Denair
Contact information : 209-678-2742; firstname.lastname@example.org
Hours: 7 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday
Specialty: Witch’s Brew seasonal drink
History of business:
After two successful years serving coffee, tea and more to the Denair Unified School District campus community and beyond, the 2020-2021 school year looks a little bit different for Coyotes Cup of Kindness.
Since starting the mobile coffee cart in the fall of 2018, Denair High School paraprofessional Destiny Silva has become accustomed to a crew of highly capable and extremely motivated special education students taking the reins to the business each morning, helping customers with their orders, counting change, preparing drinks and more. These days, however, the cart is a lonelier place as she is its sole worker.
While the students in the DHS Project Life program are able to come to campus for class in small cohorts, safety measures in place due to the coronavirus pandemic have kept them from working at the cart — something they’ve done for the past two years, which has provided them with invaluable social skills and job experience they can use in the real world after graduating. That means Silva has been busy, since Coyotes Cup of Kindness has grown from serving just 10 customers each day in its first year to now over 150 per day.
“I didn’t expect it to grow into what it has,” Silva said. “It’s insane for this little tiny cart and I think it has a lot to do with the meaning of the cart and the support of the community in general.”
Project Life is made up of special needs students ages 18 to 22, and along with Coyotes Cup of Kindness, the students can also receive work experience as unpaid interns with local businesses like Lulu’s Ice Cream Parlor and Treatery, Willie’s Pizza and Wings, Bonander Body Shop, Turlock Feed and more.
The kindness of the students working the cart, who normally sell drinks during the week and at most home sporting events, have created a brand for Cup of Kindness that sees customers travel from Turlock, Hughson, Los Banos and even Stockton to support the cause. Students from the DHS intervention class, who may be experiencing behavioral problems or slipping grades, also are able to work at the cart and learn valuable life lessons.
All proceeds from coffee sold at Coyotes Cup of Kindness are used to replenish supplies for the cart and to support the Project Life program. There are usually six to seven students working the cart at a time, Silva said, and as she eagerly awaits their return, she can’t help but think about all of the progress they’ve made so far.
“Socially, more than anything, they have grown so much. Job skills are really important, but you can’t get a job if you don’t have those social skills where you can speak appropriately and professionally,” Silva said. “In cases like this, I worry about this pushing back all of the hard work they’ve put in and the time away just sinking it down the drain.”
Along with the growth in support from the community, Coyotes Cup of Kindness has expanded their menu throughout the years to now include countless beverages, from coffee and tea to energy drinks and refreshers. Throughout the years, students have come and gone who have touched Silva’s life as well as their classmates and customers, like barista Merrick McIntire who tragically passed away last year.
On Nov. 4, McIntire’s family will pay for every drink purchased to celebrate the late teen’s birthday — an act of kindness indicative of the family-like atmosphere the coffee cart has created.
“It can bring tears to my eyes sometimes when I look back at where we started, as an empty cart with nothing on it...it really wasn’t anything compared to what it is today,” Silva said. “Now seeing where it is, seeing the community wearing our merchandise and watching people posting about us is amazing. Seeing it flourish like thus is amazing because it was all for the kids.”